Florida Fallen Stories

Photo courtesy of Mark Krancer

Florida’s Fallen at Camp Wheeler

124th Infantry (Florida National Guard), Camp Wheeler, Macon, Georgia, January 16, 1918


At many as 108 of Florida’s Fallen died at Camp Wheeler, some 165 miles from the Florida-Georgia state line. Camp Wheeler was established in 1917 as one of 16 Army National Guard Mobilization and Training Camps. It cost $4 million to build and was named for Joseph Wheeler, who served as a brigadier general for the U.S. Army and as a lieutenant general for the Confederacy. It was home to the 31st Infantry Division in World War I, known as the “Dixie” Division, as most who trained here were from Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The 31st Division spent most of the war in camp and was sent as a replacement division in France in October 1918, which meant individual members were dispersed to existing units. As a whole division, the 31st never saw combat. By the time the camp closed in 1919, 80,000 troops had trained there.

Most of Florida’s Fallen who died at Camp Wheeler were members of the 124th Infantry. The 1st and 2d Regiments of Florida National Guard Infantry were drafted into Federal service on August 5, 1917, at Jacksonville and Wauchula, respectively. Consolidated, reorganized, and redesignated as the 124th Infantry on October 1, the unit was assigned to the 31st Division, with headquarters at Camp Wheeler. 


Florida troops, Camp Wheeler, February 1918


Most of the deaths among 124th Infantry troops occurred during the Fall 1917-Winter 1918 months. The number one cause of death was pneumonia, followed by meningitis, empyema, measles, and tuberculosis. There was one case each of mumps, appendicitis, heart failure, intestinal obstruction, pleurisy, septicemia, and septic thrombosis. Another one was shot to death while attempting to escape by a camp guard.  Of the 108 of Florida’s Fallen, 100 died of respiratory illness or an influenza-like communicable disease.

The fact that so many deaths occurred in so brief a time alarmed everyone. The fear that their sons were being neglected or ill-treated prompted a call to action. Gov. Sidney Catts, whose own son was stationed at Wheeler and heard firsthand about conditions at the camp, called on President Wilson, the Chief of Staff, and Secretary of War to investigate, threatening to recall all Florida troops unless the government did something. In response, a team of medical investigators, led by Major General William C. Gorgas, surgeon general of the army, inspected Camp Wheeler on November 23, 1917. Gorgas reported that the camp was, overall, in good condition and the troops were being “well cared for.” Similar inspections by delegations from Alabama and Georgia came to the same conclusion. But there were legitimate causes for concern. For one thing, the camp of roughly 25,000 at the time was overcrowded and many men did not have adequate winter uniforms. Gorgas recommended that physical distancing be implemented, allowing for at least 50-square-feet of space per man. This meant reducing the number in tents from 9 to 5. In addition, Gorgas stipulated that no new recruits be allowed to enter the camp until the situation had improved. 

Gorgas was also concerned about an epidemic at the camp. At the time of his visit, there were more than 3,000 cases of measles in the hospital, and 300 cases of pneumonia which had developed from the measles, though the death rate was comparatively low. Moreover, the men were in overcrowded wards without adequate nursing staff. Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War, who also visited the camp in February 1918, insisted that a new hospital wing under construction would help to alleviate this problem. Meanwhile, to help relieve overcrowding, Camp Wheeler officials transferred more than 125 convalescents to hospital at Fort McPherson near Atlanta. In addition, numerous tuberculosis patients were discharged from the Army and sent home, and more nurses were assigned to the base hospital at Wheeler. Finally, wooden barracks replaced tents. Such measures helped, and the number of cases declined. It was not until late Spring 1918, when 13,460 men, or about 80 per cent of the entire camp strength, were vaccinated against pneumonia, that the threat of pneumonia at Camp Wheeler finally subsided.


Among Florida’s Fallen at Camp Wheeler

John Eldred Jenkins


Born November 15, 1888, in Madison County, Florida, Jenkins was the oldest of three sons of Jessie Jenkins (1865-1937) and Frances (Fannie) Buston (1868-1937). A farmer in Dowling Park, Florida, he was inducted in the army at Live Oak, Florida on September 18, 1917. He was married and had a 1 ½ year-old-son at the time of his death, which occurred on February 3, 1918, owing to pneumonia. He was buried in Beulah Baptist Cemetery, Dowling Park, Suwanee County, Florida. Also dying on the same date as Jenkins at Camp Wheeler was Elzie Burke, of Westville Florida, who had enlisted in the Florida National Guard at Chipley on April 12, 1917. 


George (Georgie) L. Dillon


One of seven children of Charles Marion Dillon (1854-1899) and Ida Adams (1856-1908) of Key West, Dillon was born on December 30, 1890. He worked as a fisherman in Hillsborough County (1910). In the 1914 city directory for Key West, he resided at 515 Margaret Street, along with his brother Earl, an Army sergeant, Romeo, also a fisherman, and Cleveland, a policeman. Corporal Dillon died of pneumonia at Camp Wheeler on December 3, 1917.


Alva Hovey Morris


Morris was born on October 26, 1893, in Cooper, Chilton County, Alabama, one of ten children of Robert Milo Morris (1862-1930) and Nola Downs (1872-1920). The Morrises moved to Gadsden County, Florida by 1910, and in 1917 Alva worked as a Fuller’s Earth clay miner in Quincy. An Army cook, he died of pneumonia on November 22, 1917, and was buried in Cool Springs Cemetery, Faceville, Decatur County, Georgia. 


George Washington Bates


Bates was born in Fruitville, Florida on October 7, 1897, the oldest of six children of Thomas Jefferson Bates (1867-1951) and Claudie Eunice Hampton (1878-1957). He lived in Oak Hill, Florida, in 1900, and in Bunker, DeSoto County, in 1910. Corporal Bates died of pneumonia on December 14, 1917.


Jacob Franklin Stonebraker, Jr


Born in Arcadia, Florida, on October 22, 1896, he was the oldest of six children. He worked in his father’s hardware store prior to enlisting in Company K, Florida National Guard soon after the declaration of war against Germany. Before reporting for duty at Camp Wheeler, he married Lenora Crawford on May 25, 1917. On April 17, 1918, Corporal Stonebraker died of cerebral spinal meningitis at Camp Wheeler. His father, Jacob Stonebraker, was reportedly at his bedside. He had only been back at the camp a few weeks, having been in Florida on recruiting duty. He was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Arcadia. He was survived by his wife, father, mother, three sisters, and two brothers, one of whom was George Thomas Stonebraker, a sergeant in the same company.

James William Thomas Pumphrey


Born on January 13, 1895, in Marianna, Florida, he was the oldest of eleven children of Alfred Daniel Pumphrey (1863-1908) and Hannah Butler (1871-1941). A turpentine worker in Compass Lake, he married Flossie Mae Willis on January 9, 1916. Private Pumphrey died of empyema on April 21, 1918.


List of known Florida’s Fallen at Camp Wheeler


NameDeath DateCause of Death
Edward Abraham12/28/17measles
Jenkins Adams12/10/17empyema
Thomas Franklin Allen2/12/18pneumonia
Captain Emory Atkinson11/19/17lobar pneumonia
Horace John Barclay12/7/17pneumonia
George Washington Bates12/14/17lobar pneumonia
Leroy Walton Beck11/25/17lobar pneumonia
John Walter Bell12/2/17lobar pneumonia
William Henry Bradford4/20/18meningitis
Richard H. Brannen2/18/18septicemia
Franklin Lafayette Brown11/26/17broncho pneumonia
William (Willie) Barnes Bullard12/29/17lobar pneumonia
William L. Bunnells1/1/18lobar pneumonia
Elzie Burke2/3/18lobar pneumonia
John Thomas Butler11/15/17broncho pneumonia
Clinton Clive Caldwell11/25/17broncho pneumonia
Frank A. Caraway10/15/17tuberculosis
Wilton V. Carrigan11/12/17pneumonia
Thomas Jefferson Carter11/15/17lobar pneumonia
John William Clayton1/29/18mumps
Ralph Eugene Cooper3/7/18pneumonia
William Curtis Cutts11/26/17lobar pneumonia
Hampton Daniels12/25/17meningitis
George (Georgie) L. Dillon12/3/17pneumonia
Cassie G. Elmore11/17/17pneumonia
Allie J. Elmore12/25/17pneumonia
Martin Redding Frost, Jr11/17/17lobar pneumonia
George Wilson Frost, Jr1/26/18spinal meningitis
Charles (Charlie) Alfonso Gomes3/14/1918meningitis
Charles Leslie Halley5/28/18gunshot – escaping guard
Silas Tafford Harrell11/29/17pneumonia
Ralph H. Hart12/1/17lobar pneumonia
Lewis Owen Harvey11/17/17pneumonia
John Pickens Henry4/20/18lobar pneumonia
Ezekiel Hiers11/18/17pneumonia
Culpepper (Cullie) Durand Hodges11/28/17measles
Henry May Hodges1/6/18meningitis
Oscar Napolean Howard11/15/17pneumonia
James Monroe Hudson12/31/17empyema
John Eldred Jenkins2/3/18pneumonia
Charlie Jones11/1/18lobar pneumonia
Jesse George Washington Kirkland, Jr9/29/18pneumonia
Percy Eugene Knight12/1/17pneumonia
Herbert Jackson Knight12/29/17lobar pneumonia
Frank Asbury Lacy, Jr12/6/17measles
Joseph Coy Lastinger12/2/17pneumonia
Carl W. Lawton11/22/17lobar pneumonia
John Wilby Lee11/1/17lobar pneumonia
Claud Mack Leitner11/24/17lobar pneumonia
James Edwin Leitner11/24/17lobar pneumonia
L. Oren Livingston11/22/17measles
William Malcolm Lumsden4/22/18lobar pneumonia
Robert Clarence Lyles1/20/18cerebral spinal meningitis
Arthur Madden11/14/17pneumonia
Bacile Marvin Mathews11/17/17lobar pneumonia
John Joseph (Joe) Mayo11/1/17pneumonia
John Wilson McCranie, Jr5/6/18lobar pneumonia
Rogers McCullers8/27/18lobar pneumonia
Ira McKinney11/26/17lobar pneumonia
Robert Mitchell McLaulin4/20/18pneumonia
Patrick W. McLoughlin12/19/17tuberculosis
Harry B. Miley11/22/17pneumonia
Irvin Minton1/15/18lobar pneumonia
Homer Everett Mitchell11/28/17broncho pneumonia
George Mitchell12/27/17meningitis
Alva Hovey Morris11/22/17lobar pneumonia
John Martin Morris3/19/19tuberculosis
Henry Neel11/12/17pneumonia
William Franklin Nettles12/9/17empyema
Clarence Clay Orchard3/23/18meningitis
Raymond Arthur Orton1/2/18empyema
Burke Maria Ruben Pacetti11/20/17lobar pneumonia
Edwin Willard Parrish4/19/18septic thrombosis of lateral sinus
Fred Rufus Patterson2/12/18empyema
Niven Lee Peacock1/29/18meningitis
Stewart James Pellicer11/28/17lobar pneumonia
John Angus Peterson3/30/18meningitis
Russell Sandford Pinkston11/27/17broncho pneumonia
James William Thomas Pumphrey4/21/18empyema
James Henry Raulerson1/4/18lobar pneumonia
Ralph Redd11/13/17pneumonia
Earlie Douglass Rice1/30/18lobar pneumonia
Olney Pasco Roberts11/30/17lobar pneumonia
Claude John Roberts4/17/18lobar pneumonia
Chester Wallis Roberts4/18/18appendicitis
Frank Theodore Rodriguez11/14/17pneumonia
George Houston Sandlin11/30/17pneumonia
Ivey Sapp12/6/17tuberculosis
Alexander Scarborough12/5/17meningitis
Forest Assatus Shaller11/25/17lobar pneumonia
Frank C. Smedley12/3/17spinal meningitis
Albert Haden Sphinx12/9/17broncho pneumonia
Jacob Franklin Stonebraker, Jr4/17/18cerebral spinal meningitis
Edward Henry Strickland11/19/17pleurisy
Charlie C. Suggs7/9/17heart failure
Homer Dillon Sullivan2/15/18meningitis
William Edward Traylor12/13/17meningitis
Eugene Delene Tucker12/6/17lobar pneumonia
William C. Tuttle12/9/17pneumonia
William Grady Vinson1/15/18lobar pneumonia
Sidney John Walker2/2/18lobar pneumonia
Preston Howard Weathersbee6/1/18empyema
George C. Wiggins12/30/17empyema
Rastus A. Williams11/14/17broncho pneumonia
Charles C. Willis12/8/17lobar pneumonia
Henry Simeon Wilson11/26/17pneumonia
Howard M. Wofford1/2/18intestinal obstruction
Joseph J. Yon4/14/18lobar pneumonia




Florida troop tents, Camp Wheeler, February 1918.